Woman killed in fire on southeast side; witnesses tried to reach her before firefighters arrived

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INDIANAPOLIS — Officials say a woman was found dead Monday morning after a house fire on the southeast side of Indianapolis.

According to the Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD), crews were dispatched to a house in the 3600 block of Five Points Road just before 8 a.m.

“Initial callers reported seeing smoke coming from the roof of the structure,” said Rita Reith, battalion chief for the Indianapolis Fire Department. “Subsequent callers reported seeing heavy flames. It was marked working prior to us arriving.”

According to 911 calls shared by IFD, several people saw smoke and flames and called for help. The calls revealed witnesses trying to locate the woman and help until emergency crews arrived on scene, which took just several minutes from initial dispatch.

One caller, who identified herself as a neighbor, said people were trying to get the attention of anyone inside the home but were not having luck. Neighbors said they knew someone was usually home but did not know if she was in there at the time.

Another caller could be heard telling dispatch, “We can’t get into the house — it’s fully engulfed. They said there’s somebody in the house.”

The caller proceeded to tell dispatch that there was somebody trying to throw a rock into the house.

Samantha Morales was driving her 5-year-old son to school when she said she saw the smoke and then flames. Morales told CBS4 as she pulled up and asked if anyone was inside the home, she was told yes.

Morales said she ran over and helped the neighbor who was trying to bash in the windows with landscaping rocks. She said they were able to break through the glass and screen but with the conditions inside the home and several loud “popping sounds,” they knew they were not able to get to the woman.

At that time, Morales said those trying to help could hear the sirens in the background, so they knew they needed to let first responders take over.

“I passed another two fire trucks and decided there was nothing else I could have possibly done. It was up to the professionals now,” wrote Morales in a Facebook post, where she shared what happened Monday morning.

Morales said she found out when she got to school to drop off her son that the woman didn’t make it. She told CBS4, her son, who is just five, said, “I know she’s gone mom, but we really should pray for her tonight at dinner.”

She said she is heartbroken there was not more they could have done, but wants the family of the woman to know there were people trying to help her both before and when the first responders arrived and took over.

After firefighters began putting water on the fire, Reith said crews had difficulty entering the home and conducting a rapid search due to excessive clutter.

The woman was found dead just after 8:20 a.m. following a secondary search of the home, IFD says.

IFD said one firefighter suffered minor injuries related to heat, and was treated on scene and released.

A cat was also rescued from the home and given oxygen using the Project Breathe mask, but a second cat died in the fire.

Officials said fire investigators have determined the cause of the fire to be accidental in nature, resulting from an unattended space heater on the back porch. They say it caught nearby combustible items on fire.

This is the second fatal fire in the IFD service district since the start of 2021, IFD confirmed. According to the department, the home did not have any working smoke alarms.

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